The season started way back in the 2nd week in February when we played superbly to beat the renowned East Hull in the BARLA cup. A masterclass of half back play from Jordan T’Aho and Matty Murphy lead us to a very encouraging win.
Two months later that victory sent us into the next round with a game against the famous Fryston. Although coming up short we had shown we can still compete with the big names of the game.
In that two month gap we had had mixed fortunes beating Haresfinch; narrowly losing to Orrell but conceding the game to Haydock. Although we didn’t forfeit another game all season, having to give that game up showed how small our squad was and that impacted throughout the season in games we lost that we should have won.
The fragile nature of the squad lead us to advertising for a new head coach which saw the appointment of Lee Joyner and Simon Quinn. For one reason or another it wasn’t a great match but it did lead to the recruitment of a couple of new players with Tom Roberts in particular proving to be a reliable clubman as well as a good finisher.
After the Fryston match we had mixed form with three home defeats to Shevington, Folly Lane and Hindley but two superb away wins at Latchford (with just 14 players) and an amazing win at Heysham where Tom scored a hat-trick.
This period of the season saw several of former Bears juniors make an impact with Zach Dwyer, Ellis Lewis, Liam Barlow and Jack Penny all playing their part. Of course I can’t bring up these guys without mentioning the efforts of Keiron Fenlon. Keiron was an almost ever present at training and although his game time was at times limited he never, ever moaned once!!!!
Back to the season and almost on the half way point we had probably the worst day of the season with the defeat at Orrell. For some reason this disappointing performance became a turning point. The following match we showed some of our old character only going down by two points to the eventual league winners.
At that moment if we were to qualify for the play offs we would need to win 7 out of the last 8 games which of course we did beating Heysham, Latchford, Ashton, Shevington and Haydock along the way.
A heavy defeat at Thatto, again with just 14 players, set us up for the play-off game also at Thatto. Although we lost we showed ourselves to be well capable of competing with and, hopefully, next season beating the best.
I’d like to thank everyone that has helped put a team out this last season. Without Frank Curphey, Gareth New, Gavin New, and Dave Beswick and of course Julie and her staff we would really struggle. We, of course, could do with more help and it was gratifying to see the likes of Jack and Dave Murphy helping to attract sponsors.
I’d like to also thank those sponsors for helping us buy playing kit, training and match day gear and man of the match sponsorship.
Those sponsors are Smart Storage, Hutchinson Engineering, Transmission Hoses, Prestige Electrical, Gussion Transport, SAJ Sports and Remedial Massage, Parklands, Jet Washing, Muscle and Figure gym and Lifesearch Insurance.
In particular I’d like to thank one person without whom I don’t think we would have had anything to celebrate tonight. Apart from a short time away he’s been with the club since he was seven years old and the effort he has put into training and match days and the vision he has for where he wants us to get to show the affection he has for the club. Please show your appreciation for our volunteers, sponsors and especially Ste Curphey.
Onto the awards.
Before we get onto our own we have a number of awards to be given out on behalf of the Widnes league. The league committee come in for a lot of criticism but I can assure you that no other district league looks after its clubs like they do. Our club as a whole received something like £3k from them last year and only last month they gave each club a defibrillator.
The first awards are for 10 years unbroken service as an open age player. So this isn’t necessarily just as a West Bank player. Some are well overdue and if you think you’ve been missed out let us know and we’ll sort it out for next season.
So the 10 year service awards go to Peter Clarke, Paul Curphey, Leighton Smith, Ste Curphey, Kevin Gamble and Eddie McAdam.
The other award goes to probably the outstanding player of his age. Respected and admired throughout the town and the league… The Widnes and District Open Age player of the year 2017 is RYAN BATES.
Club awards - The first two are ones that we haven’t traditionally given out.
Firstly is Clubman of the Year. I have already mentioned him previously. Players like this are the bedrock of any team. He may not be in contention for major awards this year but it’s players like this that mean we get a team out most weeks. Clubman of the Year KEIRON FENLON
Most improved. When Ste asked that we institute this award I knew who he was going to suggest before he said anything. Lack of numbers at training hasn’t been any hindrance for this player. His determination to improve set himself on a course of raising his physical fitness. It was possible to see the number of minutes on the pitch rise quickly through the season and his impact on the game improved exponentially throughout. Most improved player SHAUN BLYTHIN
Top Try Scorer. We only scored 79 trys this season with 27 different try scorers. There wasn’t a runaway winner with Lee Holland, Shaun McWhirter and Tom Roberts all bagging 5 and Dean French getting 6. But with eight trys each and therefore joint Top Try scorer we have CRAIG LAWTON and RYAN BATES.
Player’s player. Nineteen players voted in the poll all voting for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place players and 13 players received at least a third place nomination.
A very close 4th place with 10 points was Shaun Blythin but in 3rd place with 11 points it is DAVE MURPHY. Runner up with 12 points is STE CURPHEY but with a massive 49 points the Player’s Player of the Year is RYAN BATES.
The player of the year. We played 18 games during the season with only two players winning multiple Man of the Match awards.
So the runner up with two Man of the Match awards is EDDIE McADAM.
Which of course leaves the West Bank ARLFC Player of the Year with a total of 12 Man of the Match awards out of a possible 18….. RYAN BATES